Thursday, September 03, 2009

I think I'm gonna like it here*

Last week, I walked into the classroom for the first day of my Old Testament class. Professor wasn't there, but two older, male students were. One was complaining bitterly about one of our textbooks, by Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch.

"It's written by a flaming liberal woman," he said.

No, no, that's not exactly it. Accent and vernacular are necessary elements here.

"It's writtn by uh flamin' libruhl WOEman."

I'm not making fun of his accent. I have a matching one. But there's a particular way a Texas man pronounces "woman" when he is speaking negatively. It's like it's a different word from regular "woman." WOE-man is close, but not exactly it. If she's a good little wife, you've got a good "woman." If she done run off with yore pickup and yore dog, she is a WOE-man.

In any case, WOEman or woman, his statement caused a great big smile to come to my face. And I sang out:

Get me now, holy cow
Could someone pinch me please

Okay, so that was in my head. I actually just grinned down at my shoes, sat down quietly, and set up my laptop.

But in my head, there was a full chorus line with top hats and canes.

My professor, who is also my advisor, is a self-proclaimed conservative evangelical Christian. And he LOVES Brueggemann. Thinks he's brilliant. Asked us if we'd ever read anything more brilliant than the first two chapters of A Pathway of Interpretation.

It was at this point that, holding onto the back of my chair, I carefully stepped onto my desk and began doing the can-can. Bemused, but appreciative of my enthusiasm, my professor gave me his hand to help me back down to my seat.

Okay, not really. Dang, you're really attached to this whole reality thing, aren't ya?

I have been going to this school, intermittently, for five years. This is the first time ever that I've had a professor who said, quoting Brueggemann, "Any thought that we may present 'biblical truth' without interpretation is an illusion and indicates an unfortunate deficit of self-knowledge on the part of the interpreter."

And his preferred version of the Bible? Nope, not the NIV.

The JPS Hebrew English Tanakh.

*10 points to the first person who identifies the Broadway musical that's from. No cheating.


Ian Riddell said...

I love your joy at this!

And it's from "Annie" - of course!

Earthbound Spirit said...

Well, dang, LE - I think you've got yourself a liberal professor in that seminary. I didn't think they were allowed outside of Chicago... ;-)

The Brueggemann quote reminds me of a more succinct one from Dale B. Martin: ""Texts don't mean, people mean with texts." (Sex and the Single Savior, p. 1)
And, of course, Brueggemann was required in my Hebrew Scriptures classes.

Lizard Eater said...

Kind of like Spong's "the experience doesn't change, people's interpretation of the experience changes."

hysteric cleric said...

The mental image of you dancing the can-can on your desk, trying not to step on your copy of Brueggemann, may haunt me forever.

May I quote this as a sermon illustration? ;)

Seriously, I had worried that the biblical courses at your school would skew literalist & be useless to you as a religious liberal; glad to see I was mistaken.

Earthbound Spirit said...


fausto said...

"Any thought that we may present 'biblical truth' without interpretation is an illusion and indicates an unfortunate deficit of self-knowledge on the part of the interpreter."

If I'm not mistaken, it was this very same issue that first prompted some medieval professor of theology to ask his students the now-famous question, "If a tree falls in the middle of a forest, and there is no ear there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

fausto said...

Oops, my chronology may be off. The "if a tree falls..." riddle appears to have first been proposed by Bishop Berkeley in the early 198th century.

fausto said...

18th century. Must not post on the internet before coffee.